You probably didn’t get into this business to attract clients. But if you hope to train any, that’s exactly what you have to do.
Like it or not, you’re in sales now. And in sales, few things matter more than lead generation—identifying potential clients and getting them interested in your services. (If you’re going to be in sales, you may as well learn the lingo.)
My favorite ways to get leads for personal training:
- Being bold and walking up to people on the gym floor.
- Calling or emailing prospective clients from my gym’s member list.
- Emailing local businesses to discuss potential joint ventures and partnerships.
- Drawing names for prizes, such as a complimentary personal training session or nutrition consultation.
- Revisiting and re-contacting my database of prospective clients every three to four weeks to see if any are ready to take action.
Sometimes another trainer and I make a game of it, seeing who can generate the most leads in 30 minutes, including email, phone number, and preferred method of contact. The loser has to do something silly, which gives us both an incentive to win.
I know approaching people cold can be uncomfortable, but I promise it gets easier with time. Find whatever motivator works for you, even if it’s a friendly wager with a friend. If you follow this advice, I guarantee you won’t be the loser.
Improve your confidence
Imagine you’re a gym member and you see a nervous trainer standing awkwardly off to the side. Not exactly someone you’d want to hire, is it?
That’s because people tend to evaluate someone’s competence by how much confidence they project, rather than objective performance criteria.
A confident presence gives potential clients the impression you know what you’re doing. And that’s vital for getting personal training leads.
Luckily, you don’t have to actually be confident to act like you are. “Fake it till you make it” may be a cliché. But it works.
I like to take it to delusional extremes, telling myself I’m the world’s best trainer and that everyone wants to work with me. Even though I know it’s not true, it gives me the boost I need to stand tall, make eye contact, put on a smile, and approach potential clients without hesitation.
Hesitation implies uncertainty, and it’s fatal to lead generation. Be bold, be decisive, and go for it.
Yes, it may feel weird at first, but change usually does. You have to force behavior before it becomes a habit. And if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
Practice generating leads
Getting leads for personal training is like any other skill: It takes practice. Start by working on how to approach clients on the gym floor.
The wrong way: Opening the conversation with an idle or irrelevant remark—anything about the news, weather, or sports.
You could go for the helpful approach and offer a form tip, if you think the gym member is receptive to it. But this is trickier than it sounds. Some will take it as a challenge to their knowledge or skill. Others will see it as a transparent sales pitch, since so many trainers before you have already tried it.
The better tactic is to ask a good question, one you’ve given some thought. It should be open-ended, with the goal of getting the person to talk about training goals.
Or get creative. In Ignite the Fire: The Secrets to Building a Successful Personal Training Career, Jonathan Goodman writes about how he would take a book about stretching onto the floor and ask people if they’d like a free stretch session so he could practice. It was a great icebreaker, and it gave onlookers the impression that he was in demand.
But don’t stop after leaving the gym floor. Send emails, make calls, teach group classes, set up a personal trainer referral program, and do some good old-fashioned networking with people you meet.
Write down what works and what doesn’t to help you fine-tune your approach. Log your “maybes” on a spreadsheet, and follow up with them every three to four weeks to see if they’re ready to take action.
READ ALSO: Five Ways to Dominate the Gym Floor
Connect with your clients
“People buy trainers, not training.” Anyone familiar with Goodman knows that.
That’s why it’s so important to connect with people. When you do, keep in mind the power of nonverbal communication. For example, you can mirror the other person’s body language and speech patterns, something he covers in Ignite the Fire and in this article on how to establish a rapport with your clients.
If the person speaks soft and slow, you speak soft and slow. If she stands tall, so do you. If she sits on a bench after a set, pull up a ball beside her—don’t stand there speaking down. Mirroring sends a subconscious message of kinship.
It also works in reverse: If the other person starts mirroring you, it’s a sign you’ve established a rapport.
Training skill is crucial for client retention. But for generating leads, it’s perception that counts.
Make yourself look in demand by filling your schedule with fake bookings, names, and phone numbers. I’m not kidding! It’s far easier to generate leads on a full piece of paper than it is on an empty one.
I once did this experiment with two trainers in my gym. A trainer carrying a list of 10 names, emails, and phone numbers got eight more contacts than another trainer with a blank sheet, in the same amount of time.
Deceptive? Sure. But it’s also good marketing. In every industry, consumers buy based on what they think they see.
I like to use the planner app on my iPad. It lets me move people around with the drag of a finger, and I can visually show clients any gaps I’m looking to fill. I once managed to book more than 20 client sessions using this strategy.
If you’re smart, you’ll give them only two or three options, which means they’ll choose a time you want them to pick. This gives you more control over your schedule, helping you better manage your time and avoid burnout.
READ ALSO: How to Get More Personal Training Clients
Master the art of closing
The whole point of generating leads is to make a sale. For that you need some finesse.
My advice for you: Slow down.
Too often, trainers get nervous and start talking too much, which can come off as desperation. The person in control of the sale is the one who speaks less.
Focus on getting the prospective client to talk. Ask questions. Use long pauses. The more the client talks, the more he reveals about his goals, his objections, and what benefit he wants from your service. That’s all valuable intel for closing the deal.
It also gives you space to think before you speak, which helps you avoid saying something to talk the client out of the sale.
Selling personal training can be a fine line to walk. You must appear confident but not cocky. Assertive but not aggressive. Eager but not anxious.
You won’t win ’em all. But the longer you try, the better you’ll get. And the sooner you start, the faster that will happen.